RIDGELAND, SC (WSAV) – Since 2001 nearly 114,000 veterans have died by suicide.
They have a 50% higher risk for suicide, 1.5 times the National Average
22 kill themselves every single day.
That’s why OPFOB has a fire burning fire out in Ridgeland for the next 22 days. To remind everyone it’s more than a number, it’s a name, a person who needs help.
“Jason Witten, USMC lance Corporal. May 25, 2006 rest easy brother”
“We came up with this idea that for 22 days leading up to Memorial Day we would start this fire, keep it going 24 hours a day,” explains JR Brown, President, and Founder of OPFOB. “It will be manned 24/7 for 22 days straight and during that time we will talk about some of our fallen and honor some of the guys lost to suicide.”
“It is just a piece of wood we are throwing on the fire,” continues Brown. “But it is not for us veterans that have lost brothers and sisters to suicide. It is emotional.”
Facebook Live videos show the tribute logs being placed on the fire pit, each one honoring men and women who served and took their own life.
Operation Patriots Forward Operating Base headquarters in Ridgeland is 250 plus acres of land dedicated to giving veterans a place to go, enjoy and bond
Their other goal, to stop the pain for veterans. Give them a place to go, friends to see, and fun to have.
Because too many times they come back from war with demons.. and a lack of purpose that’s overwhelming.
“Every day, every minute every hour you are with your group of guys, whether it’s your squad or platoon. you do everything together. you eat you sleep you take a shower everything right next to each other,” says JR Brown/President and Founder OPFOB.
“You come home, you take the uniform off, you go back to your hometown or relocate somewhere else. you feel alone, you feel lost, you feel like people don’t understand you. People look at you differently because of some of the experiences you have gone through. It’s just a tough situation to be in.”
“We are not clinical, there are no doctors out here and you don’t have to be broken to come out. We just want guys to come out and build that camaraderie whether its working or playing. Sit around the bonfire, have fun with each other and build that network and camaraderie back up. To hopefully find that guy or that gal that has that in their mind and it hopefully will change their mind.”
“Go to anybody that you can find that will listen to your story,” says Bill Robertson of OPFOB. “We have had veterans come here and just sit on the bench by the fire, share their story, get it off their chest because we are all like-minded veterans, they can talk to us, we understand.”
“I have had numerous veterans or spouses come up to me with tears in their eyes saying they notice the difference in themselves or their spouses. This is creating a purpose,” says Brown. “It is giving them a reason to get up every day and put on their boots and come out and do some work or come out to the range and shoot or just sit around the fire and be around other veterans.”
The fire will be here all the way through Memorial Day stoked by volunteers who make sure it burns 24 hours a day to honor everyone out there lost or those still struggling.
If you would like some help, or to learn more about how to get involved, or donate to OPFOB, just go to http://www.OPFOB.org/